believer


On Monday, I was driving out of my neighborhood to go to a meeting when I saw a small dog running past me going the opposite direction. Dogs in my neighborhood do not generally run around – they are walked – and I could tell this was definitely an inside dog.  I stopped and tried to get the dog, but the little one just kept on running.  I knew that I wouldn’t like myself very much if I went ahead to the meeting and came back to find the dog laying dead on the road.  So I turned around and with the help of a couple neighborhood kids and another man caught the little guy – actually a girl – named Sweetie!

Sweetie’s dog tag had an address from the other side of town and a phone number.  “How in the world did you get way over here?”  I called the number, but I just go an answering machine.  So I grabbed a dog crate from my house and headed to my meeting with Sweetie in tow.  No return call before, during, or after my meeting.  When I got home it was dark, and I’m thinking that I will just have to figure this out tomorrow.  Before taking Sweetie in for the night I grabbed a leash in hopes that the dog would use the bathroom outside and not in my house.  As I’m walking back toward the house with the dog behind me, I suddenly realize that there is no longer any tension!  I turn around, and I all I have is the leash with the entire dog collar including the identification tag!  “Oh no!”  I look around the other side of the truck and yard – no dog – I look up the road and there is Sweetie – booking it.  So I take off after her IN FLIP-FLOPS…I had already played basketball and mowed a lawn so I don’t have much in the tank and this little dog is fast.  So the rest of this is like something out of a movie – I’m yelling at a car to stop that is about to run her over.  I lose track of the dog at one point and don’t see which way it went, the dog ends up running across 5 lanes of traffic, several motorist point me in the right direction, and people are looking at me like I’m crazy because I’m at a full sprint in flip-flops.  A 1/2 mile later from when we started running, I finally catch up to Sweetie in the Wendy’s drive-thru.  She is now safe once again.  After some detective work the next day, I was able to track down the person who was in charge of watching Sweetie while the owner was on a cruise.  The son-in-law who is a local police officer called to thank me and told me that Sweetie was a “rescue dog” and that she is an escape artist…with a history of running away.  In his opinion, this cute, little, dog is very fortunate to still be alive.

I’ve been reflecting some this week about Sweetie, and how I have observed that many people are the same as Sweetie – running away from the Person or people who are trying to help.  Ever since I was old enough and spiritually mature enough to understand it I have seen people run away from Jesus.  They think they are wise and are doing what is best for them – but they run from Jesus and into the Enemy’s trap.  It is only by the grace of God that more are not utterly crushed.  I’ve also noticed over the last 15 years the tendency of people to run from the truth tellers and spiritual helpers in their lives.  In western culture it is in large part due to the drastic individuality we are taught to embrace. “Whatever makes you feel good is right for you,” and “You don’t have to listen to anyone but yourself,” are the mantras of our culture.  The extreme emphasis on the individual is a great hindrance toward healthy churches in the west today.  So, if you are being like Sweetie, STOP, and let Jesus grab you with His gentle and scarred hands and let Him embrace you deep into His love.

Please take a few minutes to read and meditate on the following verses:

Judges 17:6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Praise Jesus for His sacrifice for us!)

I Timothy 1:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…”

Hebrews 13:17, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect, and may God use this for His glory and honor.

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Penn from Penn and Teller asks a profound question of those who have faith in God.  “How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”  Penn is a self-proclaimed atheist, and yet he gets this serious truth far more than many followers of Jesus do.  We can see the task Jesus gave us to do (“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”) should be an obvious top priority.  Please also recognize how profoundly touched Penn was by a Christian who”loved his neighbor” by engaging him as the Scriptures teach us.  The video is 5 minutes long – it is worth your time – watch it!  You can also say a prayer for Penn that he will read the Bible he was given and come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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more about “Penn Says: A Gift of a Bible“, posted with vodpod

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more about “Seeds of Blood, Christianity in China…“, posted with vodpod
Here is the video I referred to in the previous post.  Very powerful!


If you only have about 8 minutes, I would recommend that you let the video load (buffer) and then fast forward to where the time counter says (-01:24:45).  You will then be able to hear the amazing testimonies of husband Allen Yuan and his wife Liang Huizhen.  Whenever you are not sure of God’s ability or willingness to provide for the faithful you can remember this true story.  May God help our faith to increase to this measure!

Are you willing to go to prison for Jesus?  Are you willing to be separated from your family for years for Jesus?  Are you willing to die for Jesus?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you really need to watch “The Cross – Jesus in China”.  It was made in 2003, and it gives the history of the church in China.  Let me tell you that unless you are really hard of heart you will be moved.  The testimonies of these beautiful and dedicated people will cause you to reconsider what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  I believe you will also be convinced that no cost is too great to pay to follow Jesus in obedience!  It is rare that I recommend movies or books on this site (perhaps I should more often).  I put this on the HIGHLY recommended list.  I literally wept with joy and thankfulness during parts of it the first time I saw it.

http://www.chinasoul.org/e/e-va.htm from this link you can watch it online (it does take a while to load…worth the wait) or you can buy the DVD.  It is a 2 disc 4 hour set for $15, and yet timeless and priceless.  If you are myopic and self-centered and want to stay that way, well then this video is not for you!  Watch at your own risk.

Are you willing to live for Jesus?  Luke 9:23-26, “Then He (Jesus) said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.'”

I was driving on Wednesday when I heard two back to back radio ads.  The first reminded me that I only had a short time to buy flowers for Easter.  The second wanted to let me know that I needed to buy some new clothes so I could look my best on Easter morning.  As if Jesus cares whether I bought flowers or new clothes.  Many of His followers in the world can afford neither.  Do we really think that Jesus is more pleased with the man who has new clothes than He is with the the man who has ragged clothes? Of course not!  Jesus is primarily concerned with the heart, while the hearts of men and women are often concerned about what those around them will think.

The only things in the New Testament I read about clothes are that we should be modest (I Timothy 2) and that we should not play favorites based on attire (James 2).  On a related note, if we really wanted to be symobolic in our attire for Sunday then perhaps we should wear work clothes to remind us of the cost of following Jesus.  His road was a hard road of suffering.  Are we greater than He?  In fact Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9).

Jesus, please help us to keep everything in perspective of Your life, Your death, Your resurrection!  You are the glorious Lamb of God that was slain!  Help us to complain less and act in love more!

The following message was recorded by downtown community fellowship of Athens, GA.
The text is Romans 3:27-4:8
What do we have to brag about?  Abraham and David tell us the answer.

Audio Message – approx. 40 minutes.  dcf-podcast-romans-3-part-3

Are you prepared for war?

Our on recent trip to Mexico,  Tuesday was not such a great day, though God is His grace still moved in people’s hearts and accomplished good work.  On Wednesday morning, we looked at Ephesians 6:10-20.   The passage speaks of putting on the whole armor of God in order to be prepared to fight and stand against the attacks of the enemy.  I believe that most of us Christians regularly forget that we are in a spiritual war and that war involves battles that happen almost every day.  These battles are “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  It is important that every day we put on our armor and prepare for battle.  I asked each person to close their eyes and envision themselves putting the armor on.  Perhaps even now it would be beneficial for you to do this exercise and to see yourself putting on the armor of God.

What is included in the armor?

Belt – truth
Breastplate – righteousness
Sandals – gospel of peace
Shield – faith
Helmet – assurance of your salvation
Sword of the Spirit – the word of God
Prayer

If you are a follower of Jesus, have you put your armor on today or are you open to the enemies attacks?  You will notice that in verse 10, “the brethren” are addressed and told to put the armor on.  Collectively there is a strength when an entire local church puts its armor on.  Conversely it is difficult for the believers who have put their armor on to see the ones who have not done so being struck down by the enemy.  Just like in a physical battle it tears down morale to see your friends taken out on stretchers to the infirmary or worse.  And of course it is terrible for the individual who does get hit by a fiery dart.

We are instructed to pray and to do so with perseverance.  As I read the passage I am struck by the call to, “be strong…put on the armor of God…stand…quench…pray…speak boldly.”  Let’s put on our armor today so that we can have victory in Jesus!  So what was the result of putting on the armor of God in Mexico?  Wednesday and the rest of the week had much more victory and much less defeat.  Are you prepared for spiritual war or will you be easily struck down when the battle rages?

The questions:
Am I right with God?
Is Jesus currently sitting in His rightful place as king of my heart and life?
Am I doing the basic things that a follower of Jesus should be doing?
Am I loving God with all that I am?
Am I more concerned with the things of God or am I more concerned with the things of myself?
Am I loving my neighbor as myself?
Do I put the needs of others on an equal or higher place than my own needs?
Have I dealt with sin in my life so that I am striving for holiness?
Can I say that I have no known and unconfessed sin in my life?

Beginning my Bible reading this year in the book of Isaiah, it is easy to see that God has always been holy and forgiving. Read Isaiah 1:15-20.

15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.
16 “ Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
18 “ Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD, “ Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Now surely we are not actively pursuing personal gain by oppressing people. As a church we are “learning to do good; seeking justice, rebuking the oppressors, defending the fatherless, and pleading for the widows.” However, we must always strive to have God as #1 in our lives and live in such a way that we can be confident that we aren’t just giving lip service to a set of good ideas and beliefs, but that our hearts are right before God.

If you have not been made right with God in a final sense, then you need to understand that there is nothing you can do to save yourself because just like everyone else you are a sinner and a spiritual failure. You need to recognize your need for Jesus to save you from your sins because He is the only one who can. You need to tell him you are sorry for all the bad things you have done and for the unholy person you are and thank Him that He died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead. If you genuinely put your faith in Jesus then you are what we call born again – a saved person – a believer – a saint. You can now expect the world to call you crazy.

Now let me remind you that those who are redeemed by the grace of God through faith have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We have such an advantage over those who the prophet Isaiah was speaking to. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, and we have the complete Word of God. If you are consistently in the Word of God and in prayer then your sins should be obvious to you (Hebrews 4:12-16). 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.  14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

As a safeguard our lives should be open books within the church, and we need to give others the freedom to call us out when they see us in error.

We have the opportunity to always have very short accounts of our sins. Do we realize that we should always be able to go to bed at night with no unconfessed sin? How is this possible? Well if you have sinned in such a way that only God is offended, then you only need to confess to God and you know that Jesus is your Great High Priest. (Examples – you let your mind dwell on sinful thoughts of pride or lust). If you have sinned against your brother or sister through your words or your actions, you ask for forgiveness from that person and from God. In the days that we live with cell phones and email, we normally have no excuse for not making it right the very same day!

Even if by a hardness of heart we went a few days with unconfessed sin, surely having the bread and cup before us, representing the body and blood of our Savior would drive us to confess. For we know with certainty he who eats and drinks the bread and cup with knowingly unconfessed sin eats and drinks judgment to himself (I Cor. 10:13-17, 11:23-34).

10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.  27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.

Participating in the communion is a testament that we are right with God, that we have our heart and our priorities in order, that we being multiple people show that we are one body of Christ (the church) as we take the bread. We are testifying that we have no unconfessed sin before God, and that as much as depends on us we are right with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that our testimony to the world is solid. It is something that surely we should take with seriousness for we will be held accountable. And if there is something that we need to confess or do before we can partake of it – then we should be focused on taking care of that quickly – because what a dreadful thing to not be in a place where you can remember the Lord as He asked.

Being right with God has both a personal and communal aspect. Here is a reminder of what dcf as a church family is!

We are group of people drawn together by God for God’s glory. Jesus is the head of this church. He is the Chief Shepherd. The elders (Acts 20:28) are responsible to shepherd the flock, the deacons are to help serve and meet needs as they are appointed by the elders. The members are to be equipped and to do the work of the ministry as co-workers with Jesus, the elders and deacons. Our responsibility as a whole is to be obedient to Jesus, to love God, the believers, and the lost, to seek justice and to live in such a way as to help others. We praise God for all He gave us in 2008 and all the good works He enabled us to participate in. We boldly ask for much more for 2009 as we are stirred to love and good works. Let us pray!

Psalm 139:13
“For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother’s wom
b.”

The following article is only intended to convey my personal conviction as someone who is endeavoring to follow Jesus and to have His way of thinking permeate my way of thinking in all areas of life.  It is with compassion, tears, and love that I broach the very difficult and painful subject of abortion.  I am aware that what is written here will cause pain and controversy for some people I love very much, and this makes me write with great care.  Please also know for the past 10 years I have endeavored to keep serious political thoughts only to myself and those very close to me.  The reason for this is because political discussions and issues often get in the way of much more important conversations about the Good News of Jesus and the teachings of the Scriptures.  Politics can cause clouds that hinder people from seeing and hearing the most important truths of God’s Word.  

On this subject, speaking the truth in love is extremely important, as many believers and unbelievers are scarred by their choices made in the past and have deep wounds.  We must be sensitive to them when we speak about this subject like we would about the subject of divorce, and sensitive if the conversation comes up in a group or even a blog such as this. At the same time followers of Jesus cannot be silent on the subject as we have a responsibility to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I have lost sleep and shed tears over this subject lately, much of it over the hardness of my own heart and the silence of my voice. My prayer is that this writing will be more helpful than it is hurtful, and that God will protect, comfort, and teach each reader according to their need. 

I see more and more christians who are touting a pro-abortion candidate as “a gift of God’s grace for our country” and “America’s Messiah”. I disagree with this because of the candidate’s stance on abortion.  His record is very consistent that he is pro-abortion.  There can be no debate about that fact. And there can be no debate about the importance of this subject in this election.

Here is a quote from Obama from the presidential debate on October 15, 2008. It is from the transcript so it is word for word.  The context is about the appointment of new Supreme Court Justices.

“And it is true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe versus Wade probably hangs in the balance.”

Can a christian in good conscience know that abortion is morally wrong, know that a Presidential candidate is pro-abortion, and state, “I want him to be my president, and I will vote for him.”?

The arguments I have heard for yes are the following:

1.  There are many subjects under the umbrella of social justice and abortion is just one of them.  Since I agree with a pro-abortion candidate on the majority of them I will just have to disagree with him on that one. He still has my vote.

My objection:  There are many subjects under the umbrella of social justice and some have greater weight than others.  The subjects concerning the protection of innocent life are more important than those that pursue happiness.  Can we state that we love our neighbor as ourselves (including our unborn ones) and promote the campaign of someone who will not seek their protection?  Because one in five pregnancies ends in abortion worldwide, we cannot think of this matter as a secondary issue.  Can we afford for the most powerful person in the world to be wrong on this matter?

2.  Neither party intends to change anything about the situation so the subject of abortion doesn’t matter.

My objection:  A battle that should be fought but is not will always be lost.  I cannot state 100% that a pro-life candidate will appoint the correct Supreme court justices to overturn Roe versus Wade, but we are guaranteed that pro-abortion candidate’s nominees will keep the status quo.  A pro-abortion candidate winning insures that nothing on this subject in America will have the potential to change for a very long time.  

3.  What about all the innocent people in Iraq who have died since the war started?  Why are you picking the unborn over them?

My objection:  The death of any innocent person is awful.  We must remember that Iraq’s former dictator was responsible for the death of large numbers of his own people, the paid rape of hundreds if not thousands of women, and the mass murdering of a people group.  Regardless of what we should have done in the past we must deal with the reality that we are there at the present.  Even if the pro-abortion candidate is 100% correct on Iraq and the pro-life candidate is 100% wrong…the number of human lives at stake is not even close. According to the World Health Organization 43 million abortions occurred world-wide in 2003.

In closing, followers of Jesus should be pro-adoption, pro-education, pro-helping the poor, and pro-life.  The subject of life trumps all others, and we must protect the innocent.  I do not see anyway around the argument that if the pro-abortion candidate wins, then a vote for him in this election makes one complicit in every abortion in our country from when the new judges are appointed until Roe versus Wade is overturned*.

Christians may due to their conscience about other subjects say that they will not vote for the lessor of two evils and will abstain from voting, but I cannot agree with the thinking of christians who promote a pro-abortion candidate as a great agent for hope and change.  

Finally, I am thankful for the grace of God which is sufficient for all things.  Let us love and have our hope solely in One Person – Jesus Christ!  Please also know that I am open to calm, civil, and loving discussion about this or most any other subject.**

———–

* I do not believe that we are complicit with every act the person we vote for commits for 2 reasons: 

1.   We cannot see the future and are ignorant of the sins people will commit in the future. 

2.  I reiterate that different issues have different moral weights, and we are sometimes forced to pick between them.  If certain bad things happen because of my vote for the pro-life candidate I am not automatically complicit with them because I was forced to make my decision based on the greater moral issue. 

I do believe we are complicit when we know the actions someone will commit are morally wrong and it carries great moral weight (like slavery and abortion) and we vote for that person anyway.  Under those circumstances, I don’t see a way to avoid complicity.   

** Due to the sensitive nature of this topic.  I will be diligent and thoughtful about which comments are approved and not approved for public viewing.  If I do not approve your comment I will endeavor to send you a private email.

Claire and I laughed and laughed when we saw this giant ladder on this little Mazda Miata as we were driving on the interstate.  When the engineers at Mazda were designing the Miata, I highly doubt they were thinking, “It can be a utility vehicle to carry around large ladders.” 

Yet many people in life find themselves in a similar predicament.  What they were created for and their current life do not match up at all.  Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  You see God has created each one of us and has given us unique places in time and history and unique gifts to use.  When we are living life according to our own rules and desires we step outside of God’s plan and go out on our own.  How foolish to think we could know better than God what is best for the future.  

So how can we make sure that we do not go through life like a Miata carrying a ladder?

1.  Make sure you truly know God through faith in His Son Jesus.  Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” 

2.  Read the Bible consistently with an open heart and mind.  II Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

3.  Pray daily seeking to grow closer to God. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” 

4.  Repent of things in your life that you know don’t please God.  Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

5.  Be involved in a local church where you have godly fellowship and accountability. Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

6.  Seek Godly counsel.  Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

7.  Act on what you know is right.  James 1:22-25, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”

If you know Jesus and are consistently doing 2-7, I believe you will get on and stay true to the plan God has for you.  Remember in that great exchange we get to give Jesus the unwieldy burdens that we have picked up along the way and only carry what He gives us.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

We must come to the realization that unless we are living according to God’s plan, then we cannot fully love Him and love our neighbors as He created us to do.  If your life does not line up with what God created you for, will you give up your plan and take on His?

Many followers of Jesus are totally missing out on the enjoyment of the abundant life, and most all of us go through periods of time where we are not dialed in.  It is therefore good to look at a few Scriptures on the subject.  I recommend that you read Romans 8:1-11 and II Corinthians 5:14-21 before continuing.   www.biblegateway.com is a good place to read the Scriptures online.  For most of my postings I use the New King James Version.

“Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep'” (John 10:7-11). 

Let’s notice that Jesus is once again claiming that He is absolutely necessary for salvation.  See the post “Is Jesus the only way” for more on this subject.  The wonderful news is that Jesus desires to give us life and not just life, but a more abundant life.  Oh and don’t forget that life is also eternal life (John 3:16).

Romans 8 tells us that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Those who are believers in Jesus are free from the penalties of sin!  God has declared them to be innocent because of what Jesus has done.  It stands to reason that since God has not condemned us that we should not condemn ourselves.  This being said, Romans 8 continues to tell us that the flesh cannot please God. The reality is that only God the Father’s children can please the Father.  Those who refuse Him cannot please Him.  Those who are “in Christ” should walk in the Spirit we have been given knowing that in the Spirit we can and do please God.

II Corinthians 5 states that the followers of Jesus are “new creations”.  We are not defined by our past, but by our place of newness in Christ.  Because of this we can have confidence in God’s ability and desire to work in us and through us in the “ministry of reconciliation”.  

In summary verse 15 of the same chapter states, “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”  The abundant life is the life that is lived for Jesus.  If your definition of an abundant life is different than that you may seek, but you will not enjoy the abundant life.  Even now Jesus holds out the offer of the abundant life for those who do not know Him to by faith believe in Him.  And for those of us who are already His, Jesus desires that today we would fully participate in the abundant life, the life free of condemnation, the life that shares in the ministry of reconciliation with Him!  May God work in your heart according to your need.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment.  If you don’t want your comment to be seen by the world, just put the words “private comment” in your text.

My wife and I are on a very impromptu vacation. We knew Claire was taking time off from her job on Thursday, Friday, and Monday, but it wasn’t until Wednesday late afternoon that we made the official decision to bolt with a last minute travel deal to the Grand Bahama Island. We are having a very nice time. I failed to bring the cord to connect the camera so I will have to post pictures when we return.

I have to write about something that happened last night – something unexpected and shocking. Claire and I were wandering around the marketplace area across the street from our hotel in search of a nice but resoanably priced meal. Now this is a challenge in a place where a box of Cheerios sells for $8. So after walking around and deciding not to drop our life’s savings on dinner, we headed to a little Greek restaraunt that is delicious and affordable. It has become our main stay. So we sat down and ordered a Greek salad and Souvlaki (gyro with chicken instead of beef).

We were not there for long when a young boy at the table behind us knocked his plate off the ground to a resounding crash. The mother starting yelling loudly at the boy and then quickly turned her anger at his younger sister. “Come over here so I can strike you!”, was the phrase that is stuck in my head. She violently picked her up and put her in the chair next to her and repeatedly called her “stupid” along with other verbal assaults. Meanwhile the father just sat quietly doing nothing.

By this point Claire was fighting back the tears and others in the restaraunt were visibly upset. I was having this great internal struggle of whether I should stand up and say something to try to get this awfulness to stop or whether I should hold my tongue. The only thing going for the latter response was the thought of what might happen to this very little girl later if her mother is publicly rebuked.

After a little while things quieted down, and the mother and daughter went to the restroom. I saw this as an opportunity to talk to the dad, but the bus boy was cleaning off their table. After he left, I went over and introduced myself and asked him if we could talk in private for a minute. I didn’t want him to be defensive in the presence of his two sons. He agreed, but then immediately his wife was back. I went to a separate table and waited for a few minutes, but he wasn’t going to be joining me. They paid their bill and left.

I sat with Claire for a minute or two and in God’s strength mustered up the courage to go after them. I caught up much sooner than I expected and from behind said, “Excuse me.” They all stopped and turned around. I said the to the man that he had agreed to listen to me for a minute and that, “Jesus loves your family; mam, Jesus loves you, and Jesus loves your children. What happened in there is not what Jesus wants to happen.” At this point the lady walked off, but the man stayed and we talked for several more minutes. I was thankful to God that the man was humble enough to listen, because he could have just as easily been aggressive. I asked him if he believed in God and Jesus and he said yes. Whether or not he has a true belief I do not know; however, a door was opened to talk to him about his responsibilities as a father in the home. I instructed him as the Scriptures do that he is responsible for his children and his wife, and told him that, “God wants you to grow some balls and raise your children with love. You had the balls to have the children now you have to raise them.” If that comes across as crass to you, I’m sorry for that, but it is what I said, believe to be true, and believe was appropriate in the context. We had a profitable discussion about the difference of discipline out of love and for correction and discipline that isn’t discipline at all – just anger and violence. We talked about the example that would set for their children and how it could affect their futures.

We ended with my promise to pray for him and his family. If you are God loving, would you say a prayer for them even now? Here is a very important point. We may take a vacation from our work, or just be having a dinner with family and friends, but we never take a vacation from being followers of Jesus. We are His, and we are to be ready to serve Him whenever He gives us a task.

II Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

June 23, 2008

The ABC evening news reported a survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The result of the survey is that 70 percent say that their religion/belief system is not the only way to heaven. Here is the breakdown of the percentage of people who believe there are multiple ways to heaven:

83% mainline Protestants
79% Catholics
82% Jews
56% Muslims
57% Evangelicals

These numbers are not surprising since inclusiveness is in vogue and a claim to exclusive truth is viewed as arrogant and hateful. In addition, there is the understandable desire for most everyone to be okay – that only those in the league of Hitler would be kept from eternal life.  The problem for those who claim to be followers of Jesus is that He doesn’t view it this way.  He emphatically states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me!” (John 14:6).  When Jesus is stripped of these claims, the pseudo-believer ends up with a different Jesus and a different Gospel altogether.  

Is it arrogant and hateful to teach that Jesus is the only way to eternal life?  I do not believe so.  Let’s assume for one moment that Jesus is the only way.  If that is true, and if I teach that you are okay to believe whatever you want to, would that be loving?  No, the only loving thing to do would be to teach Jesus as the only way.  As for arrogance, the belief in Jesus is anything but arrogant because the believer must admit that he NEEDS Jesus because he is not good enough on his own.

A question worth asking is, “Why is Jesus the only way?”  The answer is because He is the only one who was sinless and by death could pay for the sins of others.  Sin is our serious disease and Jesus is the solution. In love He offers eternal and abundant life to you – even now. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17-18).

Do you believe in Jesus as He really is or are you swimming with the popular current?

I was recently moved by a story I saw on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” about the Summerville, South Carolina, High School basketball team.  Louis Mulkey was an assistant coach, and the Captain of Engine 15 for the Charleston Fire Department.  He had coached the 8th grade team with the goal that his 8th graders would win the state championship five years later.  Before that 5th year began, tragedy struck.  Louis Mulkey and eight other fire fighters lost their lives on a June 18, 2007.  

The team honored their mentor and friend by placing a fireman’s hat in the school colors on the 4th seat on the bench.  The fireman’s hat was put there for every game.  The team played exceptionally well during the regular season and went into the playoffs.  In the semi-final game they were losing with only a few minutes to play, and they were tired.  Their fans began chanting, “Louis Mulkey, Louis Mulkey, Louis Mulkey”.  The players were inspired and pulled out the win.  In the championship game they won a tightly contested contest by only 1 point.  

On the way home, about 1 AM, the team stopped by the grave of Louis Mulkey.  They placed the championship trophy by his tombstone, and some of the players left their championship medals there as a way to say thank you for the difference this man had made in their lives.

The scene reminded me of what we find in the book of Revelation chapter 4 verses 9-11, “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 

You are worthy, our Lord and God, 
to receive glory and honor and power, 
for you created all things, 
and by your will they were created 
and have their being.'”

In the Scriptures we are also told that the followers of Jesus will received crowns and jewels based on faithfulness and stewardship of what we have been entrusted with.  I don’t think we will be wearing those around, but instead will have the opportunity to follow the example we are given.  We will have opportunity to bow at the feet of Jesus and say thank you.  Until that time, how we live our short days on this earth can be a thank you to Jesus.  May those of us who believe in Him be encouraged to live a life filled with love and grace in response to what our Savior has done for us. Please remember that we can only lived this sort of life by being filled with love and grace by God Himself to overflowing.  II Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
——

If you click the Outside the Lines link in the post you will see the ESPN video.  It has a couple of neat parts of the story that I didn’t mention. 

Without going into too much detail, I can tell you that we’ve hit a bump in the road with our paperwork process.  I’ll give more details once we have figured out what is the best step to take.  At this point, we will just ask God for the wisdom to make the right decision, and the right attitude to deal lovingly with each party involved.  We are definitely in a learning process, and we hope that even the setbacks and frustrations will be beneficial for other families seeking to adopt in the future. 

 

 

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